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How to Assess Risk and Reduce Fear

With all the violence that is happening in the world today, how do you know what’s safe to do? Should you be flying? Should you be taking the kids to NYC for the holidays? Should you be avoiding crowds at the stadium? Or, at the mall? If your answer is, “no, not now,” how will you know when you are ready to return to “normal” activity?

There is no absolute safety in this world. Indeed, staying home turns out to be a fairly risky business as home is the place where most fatal accidents occur. Thus, the trick to feeling safe is not to hide under a blanket or to bury your head in the sand but to distinguish between how risky a situation actually is and how risky it feels. Risk is less frightening when you understand it better. Hence, here are a few things to keep in mind:

How risbrain-on-fearky we perceive an activity to be is not the same as how risky it actually is. Many people feel more frightened flying than driving. This is true even when they know that one is much more likely to have a fatal accident in a car than in a plane. Logic often does not hold a candle to our emotional responses.

TV images of dreadful events make them more vivid in our imagination. The most recent terror attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino were not something we just heard about. We saw graphic images of destruction on TV, on the Internet, on our phones. Over-exposure to such events makes us feel more vulnerable and open to attack.

We feel more vulnerable when we’re not in control. When we’re not the ones calling the shots, it requires that we put our trust and faith in people we don’t know and in systems we may not trust. This is difficult for many people to do.

New risk seems scarier than old risk. Which is more likely to kill you, the flu or anthrax? No question, it’s the flu. But since the flu is a known disease and anthrax is a new disease born of terrorism, anthrax is perceived to be far more dangerous. Indeed, we are so used to the flu arriving each autumn that many can’t be bothered to get vaccinated, even when there is no financial cost.

main-in-fearWe all need to reflect on our own risk-reward ratio. What risks am I willing to take to live the life I want to live? When am I being overly cautious? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions; you must come to your own conclusion. Yes, there are times in which it is smart to be afraid. But if fear becomes your way of life, it takes a huge toll. Here are just a few of the costs:

A fearful lifestyle constricts your thinking.
If you are constantly feeling fearful, you may find that you have developed a pattern of reflexive nay-saying instead of reflective thought. Worrying about setbacks, troubles, problems or calamities that might befall you (or your loved ones) makes it difficult, if not impossible, to sustain good decision making©©.

A fearful lifestyle pinches choices.
Fear also restricts your ability to take action. You may approach life with a ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude. The upshot? You end up spending your days in a too-tight, too-narrow comfort zone.

A fearful lifestyle squeezes all the fun, excitement, and juiciness out of life.
When fear becomes the primary determinant of your life choices, what’s left? Two things: the routine, everyday undertakings of life and the crisis and tragedies of life that sooner or later will befall us.

Though being scared, at times, is an inevitable part of living, focusing on the hazards and risks of life is not. So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with world events, be guided not only by the fear in your gut but also by the knowledge in your head.

“To fear is one thing.
To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.”
Katherine Paterson

Sadness in the Season of Gladness

It’s a happy time of year. A time to be joyous. A time for parties and fun events. But I’m listening to a sad story. A young woman died in an instant. A bone got stuck in her throat. A stupid, senseless, useless death.

crying-womanA mom is in shock. She can’t believe what has happened. People come to pay respects.  They bring food. They shed tears. They embrace. They offer their deepest sympathies. They ask if there’s anything they can do. But they all know that the one thing they wish they could do, they can’t.

And then one visitor utters the words that make mom cringe. He holds her hand tight as he reassures her that “Everything happens for a reason.”

“What reason could there possibly be,” she retorts, as she pulls away from him. He responds in a gentle voice, “You will grow from this. You will find God’s meaning. You’ll see.” This man thinks he is being helpful. He knows not that his words cut rather than cure, hurt rather than heal. He is not a mean man; he is an ignorant one.

When loved ones are in pain, we don’t know what to do. We feel obliged to say something. Hence, platitudes spill out of our mouths, masquerading as precious wisdom. We offer advice. We tell them that it will be all right. We tell them what God wants.

So, what should we do if platitudes don’t work? What do we say to hide our discomfort in these helpless situations? Avoid the situation all together? No!

Simply, allow your loved one to grieve. In her way. On her timetable. Let her talk. Or not talk. Let her cry. Or not cry. Let her howl in despair. Or not howl. Let her hate God. Or love God. Or not believe in God.

When a life has been shattered, do not try to make things better. Many losses cannot be made better. They cannot be understood. They cannot even be accepted. Especially, if it is a loss of a child. Your child is your future. This should never have happened!!!

So, how can you be helpful? Simply be there. Be fully present when she needs to rant. Or, cry. Or, be silent. Be there, when she’s in despair. Or, feeling better. And when she wants to be alone, let her be alone. But reassure her that, even in her aloneness, you are holding her in your heart.

head-in-handGrieving is a necessary process. It must happen before one can heal or move on. Sounds simple enough. But we are an impatient society. We want people to get over even their deepest losses way too soon. We don’t appreciate that cutting the grieving process short can curtail the healing process. Nor do we acknowledge that grieving may never be completely over.

So, if you wish to be helpful to a person devastated by grief, avoid giving advice. Instead, simply be there in the moment. And if you feel uncomfortable not doing anything, remind yourself this is not about doing. It’s about being there at a time when your loved one needs you.


This article was inspired by the writing of Tim J. Lawrence, who blogs at The Adversity Within. For more information about Tim, go to

“The reality is you will grieve forever.

You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn o live with it.

You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.”

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Are you an Approval Addict?

Do you have a strong need for approval from others?
Do you worry a lot about what others think of you?
Do you have difficulty saying “no” to others, but feel sad when they don’t respond in kind?

If so, it’s time for you to chill out before you burn out. Seeking approval from others is draining, diminishing and invariably disappointing.

Draining – because you use up so much energy seeking approval that you can’t focus on what’s really important to you.
Diminishing – because your needs often end up at the bottom of the pile.
Disappointing – because no matter how hard you try, some people still won’t like you, appreciate what you do, or value your opinion.

So, if you want to break your approval addiction, read on…

1. Instead of looking outward, go inward and reflect on how you want to live your life.

If you find yourself living your life to accommodate others or chasing pursuits just to fit in or gain acceptance, stop. Though it may initially feel warm and fuzzy to win another’s favor, reflect on whether it’s worth it in the long run. If you do decide to say “yes” to what others want, make sure it fits into your time schedule and is, at least partially, on your terms. Rather than taking on tasks simply to please another, aim toward living by the rules that make sense to you.

Nix the guilt if you didn’t do what someone else wanted. Nix the fear of offending others. In no way am I suggesting that you aim to be a self-centered, egotistical person. Being a generous, giving person is an admirable quality. But accommodating others just to win their approval or to prove your worthiness is another matter.

2. Know when and how to say “no.”

The ability to say “no” – especially when you’re thinking “no” – will reap unexpected benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Your “yes” will be more respected by others, as those who can’t say “no” are often treated as doormats.
  • Saying “no” will help you set reasonable limits on your time and energy.
  • Saying “no” will help you build character. Character is weakened by saying “yes” to everyone and everything.

Learn the many ways to say “no.” Most will fit into one of these four categories:

a. a polite “no”
“No, but thanks for thinking of me.”

b. a “no” with an Explanation
“No, I’d like to join you but I just don’t have the time.”

c. a “no” with an Alternative Proposal
“No, I can’t drive you now but I’ll be available in an hour.”

d. a Blunt “NO”
“No, I won’t do it.” As a pleaser, you’ll probably use this type of “no” sparingly, saving it for those who brush off your initial “no.”

Teach yourself the skill of using whatever type of “no” best fits your mood and the situation.

3. Give yourself the approval that you seek from others.

We live in a culture in which it’s easy to feel frazzled and fried. Work harder! Faster! Better! Though this is troubling for many, it’s particularly tough for an approval junkie. Why? Because approval seekers are prone to assuming an abundance of responsibility. Add on your dislike of disappointing others and life can easily get out of hand. You know what I’m talking about, right? In your saner moments, you do know that you can’t do everything. So, if something has to give, make sure it’s not your good feelings about yourself.

Remember, always, always, always treat yourself with respect. Know your worth. Value your time. Make choices that are right for you. Instead of feeling pressured to go along with something you don’t want to do, speak up. Give yourself the kindness, acceptance and approval that you’re seeking from others.

“People often say that a person has not yet found himself.
But the self is not something that one finds.
It is something that one creates.”
~ Thomas Szasz

Just Say “Maybe”

Do you have a tough time making a choice? If so, you know it can drive you crazy… and waste a lot of time. Here’s a typical internal dialogue of an indecisive person:

“Maybe I should do this.
No, maybe I should really do that.
I don’t know what to do.
Ok, I guess I’ll go with my first idea.
But maybe that’s not the best idea.
Oh, I can’t stand this. I’ve got to decide what to do.
I can’t.
Why not?
It’s not so simple.
It’s complex; No, I’m complex.
I’m not complex, I’m just neurotic.
No, I’m not.
Yes, I am.
All right; stop all this going back and forth. I must decide already.
So, maybe I’ll do this!”

Is there any help for indecisive people? Must they continue to torture themselves with even the most mundane decisions? If you’re struggling with interminable indecisiveness, here are a few ideas that I hope will help you move forward:

1. In real life, as opposed to your fantasy life, there is rarely an absolute best decision.

Sure, you want all your decisions to be safe, secure and the “right” one. Yet, decisions are a risky business. By making a decision, you risk being wrong. By taking a stand, you risk being ridiculed. By making a choice, you risk regretting it. Can you take steps to minimize these risks? Of course. Will you ever eliminate all risk? Never. But, is it better to make a decision than to be bogged down with indecisiveness? Yes! Yes! And Yes!

2. Trust your intuition.

You probably equate more thinking with better thinking. However, too much thinking reaches a point of diminishing returns. Then what happens? The paralysis of analysis. Too many options, too much vacillating about what to do and you get more and more anxious. Then, you freeze. So, instead of going on and on trying to figure it out, try trusting your intuition. Intuition is not the enemy. Unless you are on a destructive path, it is customarily your wise, well-informed friend.

3. Enough is enough!

If you second-guess every decision before you make it, then drive yourself crazy after you make it, tell yourself “enough is enough.” Once you make a decision. It’s done. For better or for worse. Let go. Then, use your beautiful brain to get on with your life.

© 2016

Struggling to Accept ‘What Is’

Have you been struggling with accepting the results of the Presidential election? Now that the election has come and gone, and you can’t get it back, what do you do with your anxiety, your anger, your astonishment with the outcome – if this is what you are feeling?

Here are thoughts that might help you deal productively with your current struggle as well as other struggles that you will surely encounter on this journey we call life.

“We have to stand up for what we believe in. Always. Always!….It doesn’t matter if we are standing up to our friends or our boss or even the president of the United States, we must stand up for what we believe is right and just and moral and good. We cannot waiver, not in the face of intimidation, not in the face of trepidation, not even in the face of fear.” ~Rabbi Sara Sapadin

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” ~Lee Iacocca

“The problems are here to stay. We need to find a way to deal with them.” ~ Pawan Mishra

“No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.” ~Julius Caesar

“There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.” ~Michael J. Fox

“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.” ~Jamais Cascio

“Life inevitably throws us curve balls, unexpected circumstances that remind us to expect the unexpected. I’ve come to understand these curve balls are the beautiful unfolding of both karma and current.” ~ Carre Otis

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~ Nelson Mandela

“Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.” ~Stella McCartney

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~William James

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” ~ Hans Selye“

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman

What’s the Matter With You?

What’s the matter with my daughter? All I did was ask her if she had responded to a family invite and the next thing I know she’s rolling her eyes, telling me (with dripping sarcasm), “What do you think I don’t know anything; why do you think so little of me?”

What did I do wrong? Why do I have to tip-toe around my own daughter, making sure I always say the “right” thing? “Yes,” Liz told her daughter Lori, “I don’t think you know anything if that’s the way you talk to your mother.

What’s the matter with you?” Lori lashed back. “Nothing’s the matter with me. I’m 25 years old and I don’t need you to keep telling me what to do. Butt out! I’m perfectly capable of handling my own life.

I’m your mother. You just remember that and show some respect.”

What’s going on here? Why are mother and daughter so steamed up over a seemingly innocuous question? Why do so many talks between family members deteriorate into anguished attacks?

Often, it’s because a button has been pushed that’s tied to your identity. By identity, I mean how you view yourself and how you want others to view you. In this situation, mom’s identity is strongly tied to being a person who is “caring and considerate and does the right thing.” So when Liz asked her daughter if she had responded to the invite, she felt she was just being a caring and considerate person.

Lori obviously interpreted the whole interaction differently. Lori’s identity is strongly tied to being “an independent, competent adult who can handle things on her own.” Hence, her mom’s question, which might have been perceived as innocuous by someone else, was insulting to Lori.

Then, when Lori told her mom to butt out, Liz was wounded to her core. Liz felt she was a loving mother who had devoted the better part of her life to raising her daughter. And now she was being told to “butt out!!” Butt out of her daughter’s life? Unthinkable; her daughter was her life!

Wow! How easily a simple question can morph into an anguished assault. So what’s a person to do?

Here are three suggestions.

1. Recognize your vulnerabilities

Know what triggers an instant insult for you. Will it be an attack on your competence? Your looks? Your strength? Your importance in the family? Your worth in the outside world? Your parenting skills? Once you know your vulnerabilities, work to strengthen your core. Be secure in who you are. That way, you won’t be thrown off balance if someone says something that’s hurtful to you. Or, if you are thrown off balance, you’ll be able to quickly recover without counter-attacking and escalating the whole episode.

2. Be aware of what you say that’s hurtful to another in a way you might not have ever imagined.

Of course, it’s easy to think, “she shouldn’t be so sensitive” or “he should know I don’t mean any harm.” But she is sensitive in this area (just like you’re sensitive in another area).And he doesn’t know that you don’t mean any harm. Indeed, if you keep saying what you say, he might indeed believe you do want to undermine him.

3. Instead of continuing to hurl insults, stop. Take a deep breath. Try backtracking rather than going full throttle ahead.

It’s seductive to keep trading barbs when you’re feeling hurt. After all, you’ve got to defend yourself. And continue to show the other how wrong he/she is. But where does this get you? Nowhere. For it’s not an honest discussion. It’s not designed to clarify what was meant. It doesn’t help you understand the other person’s position better. It’s simply a way to continue the assault until both parties retreat to their respective corners to heal their wounds, and perhaps plan a counter-attack.


Inane, Insincere, Inadequate Apologies

Trump’s recent “apology” for his sexually degrading remarks, was inane, insincere and inadequate. “I said it; I was wrong, and I apologized” was designed to call off the dogs and get back to the business of attacking Hillary (and Bill) ASAP.

According the “The Five Languages of Apology,” a real apology has three parts: expressing regret, accepting responsibility and making restitution. (CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)

Clearly, Trump doesn’t have the foggiest clue as to what a sincere apology entails. So, I will help him ‘get it.’ Donald, here’s what you need to know:

  1. A sincere apology is empathetic, not arrogant. It requires you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to imagine what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of your insults. You must listen to what others are saying and do your best to understand what they are feeling. Your consciousness must be raised, as you learn from the experience.
  2. An authentic apology admits openly and honestly that you were wrong. It directly acknowledges the hurt you caused, the harm you did. There is no fudging, no whitewashing, no trivializing the situation (i.e. “I’ve said some foolish things.”).
  3. A genuine apology does not offer self-serving spin designed to get you off the hook (“I’m not a perfect person.”). You do not compare yourself to others to make your behavior acceptable (“Bill Clinton has actually abused women.”) You do not create a song and dance routine to explain why you’re not really to blame (“My comments were for entertainment.”).
  4. An honest–to-goodness apology begs the other person’s pardon. It is not up to you to decide when you are forgiven; it is up to the people you have offended. When you push for premature closure (i.e. “I said I’m sorry, what else do you want?”), you do not recognize that trust needs to be regained over time, not quickly granted.
  5. A bona fide apology is a humbling experience, particularly for a person seeking power. You cannot make it right all by yourself. You must listen. You must learn. You must hear. You must change your perspective. You must modify your beliefs. You must alter your actions. You must accept responsibility. You must seek to make restitution.

Donald, want to know what a sincere apology would have sounded like? Here is one possibility. And no, you may not copy this:

“Words cannot express how truly sorry I am for the way I have treated women. And what I have said about them. I am both sorry and embarrassed for the hurt, pain and anguish I have caused. This is especially saddening because so many women have been so supportive of me. I recognize that I must become more aware, more sensitive, more compassionate, more knowledgeable about how I speak and how I treat women and make sure such degrading comments like those that I made will never happen again.


I want you to know that I am committed to taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence. I am listening to you. I am hearing you. I am recognizing how hurtful my comments and attitudes have been. You deserve better—a lot better—from me. I hope I can regain your trust. And I hope you will give me the opportunity to show you how much I have changed.”

A sincere apology, like the one above, requires one to acknowledge that his actions and his words are inconsistent with his deeply held morals and values.

If this is not true, as Trump has shown over and over again, an apology, no matter how many times and how many different ways it is spun, will always mean zilch.


Snappy Responses to Snarky Put-downs

Do you know how to react when sideswiped with a snarky put-down?

  • Do you feel you have to justify yourself?
  • Or explain in detail why you said what you said?
  • Or do you become furious, and in so doing, lose your cool?
  • Or do you clam up, seethe inside and nurse your wounds?

If any of these scenarios are true for you, it’s time to take some lessons from Hillary Clinton. Why? Because her comebacks, during the debate, were teachable moments. Whenever Trump made a snarky remark, Clinton held her head up high, maintained her integrity and communicated what she believed was important.

Here are four examples:

  1. After Trump insulted her, Clinton stood strong, refusing to be wounded, weak or defensive. Instead, she went on the offense by stating what she believed to be important.”
    • “I don’t respond to Donald Trump and his string of insults against me. What I am concerned about is how he goes after everybody else. He goes after women. He goes after Muslims. He goes after immigrants. He goes after people with disabilities. He is undermining the values that we stand for.”
  2. After Trump criticized her for lacking the stamina to continue to campaign days before the debate, Clinton agreed with his statement but disagreed with the negative value judgment….effectively turning a criticism into a compliment.
    • “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes I did. You know what else I did? I prepared to be president.”
  3. Clinton turned Trump’s bragging comment around, using humor to accentuate her point.
    • “A few days ago, he said “I’m going to do for the country what I did for my business. So let’s take a look at what he has done. He’s written a lot of books about business—they all seem to end at Chapter 11.”
  4. When directly criticized, Clinton kept her cool, responding with a smile.
    • “Donald, I know you live in your own reality….Unlike some people, I do try to learn what’s at the core of any question before I offer an opinion because it’s not enough to say what’s wrong; I think you’ve got a responsibility to say how you’ll fix it.”

Hopefully, you can use some of Clinton’s strategies to help you keep your cool if someone tries to get under your skin. Now, here are four more strategies to help you strengthen your repertoire of responses.

  1. Ignore the content of the remark (what was said).
    • Respond, instead, to the process (what’s going on here).
      “You must be really uptight today. What’s going on for you?
  2. Call the person on their put-down rather than defending yourself.
    • “Perhaps you’re unaware of how critical you are and how hurtful your comment was.”
  3. Disagree with what was said…then say it as you see it.
    • “Clearly, you view what I did as wrong; let me tell you why I see it as perfectly acceptable…”
  4. Correct with a simple statement but no attack.
    “I see myself as “angry,” not “bitchy.”

Since you’re not running for high office, I hope you don’t have to constantly respond to snarky remarks. Still, on occasion, there will be some people who will revel in putting you down. Learning how to respond well to damaging digs is a skill that everybody needs to develop.


“Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to the U.S.
The immigration guys kick the star out of my stardom.”
— Shah Rukh Khan

If Only It Were That Simple

arguing-coupleYou would think that a simple question would be met with a simple answer. On occasion, that is true. But often, a simple question stirs up a barrage of emotional baggage. Here are two examples:

He says: Do you know where the flashlight is?
She says: You never put anything away and then you expect me to find it. How am I supposed to know?

She says: It’s raining; will you drive carefully?
He says: Get off my back! I’m not an idiot!

Communication is not what you say; it’s what the other person hears you say. And when you have a history with that person, a simple question can conjure up a frenzy of emotions. If you’re confused about why this might happen, ask yourself:

  • How did the other person interpret my question?
  • Have my words heightened an existing conflict?
  • What was my tone of voice and body language?

If you’re thinking, so much work! Why do I need to be thinking about these things?
Why can’t I just say what I want to say?

Yes, it’s true; you have the right to keep repeating old patterns. To shake your head in disdain; tell him what an idiot he is; call her an airhead; mutter curse words and build a case for how right you are, how wrong he is.

Or, you can seek to discover the reason why a simple question did not beget a simple answer. Then, you can change your response to get a different outcome

Let’s see how that might work. First, the old pattern:

She: I know something’s bothering you. What is it? Why don’t you talk about it?
He: Nothing’s bothering me! I just want some peace and quiet here. Is that too much to ask?
She: There you go again. Not talking to me. I’m sick of it.
He: Silence
She: What kind of a marriage do we have? You don’t share anything with me. I’ve had it with you!

You can see where this conversation is going. Time to batten down the hatches!

Now let’s imagine that she starts off with the same complaint, but both parties communicate in a more thoughtful manner:

She: I know something’s bothering you. What is it? Why don’t you talk about it?
He: Nothing’s bothering me! I just had a stressful day and want to relax. Please, give me some time to unwind.
She: Okay. Retreat to your cave. When you’re done hibernating, which I hope will be soon, I’m here to listen.
He: I know, but sometimes I just like to be quiet. I’m not like you; I don’t always like to talk about it.
She: I know you’re a quiet guy. But it makes me feel so alone, left out and distant from you when you don’t talk to me. I want us to get closer by sharing our stuff.
He: I hear you. But right now, I’m zonked. Let me be, and we’ll talk later after the kids are asleep.
She: OK. I look forward to it.

acceptanceWhat did this couple do that de-escalated the conflict? Here are just 4 communication skills that made a difference. They:

  • Listened to each other, validating the other’s viewpoint.
  • Stated their own needs without attacking their spouse.
  • Communicated respectfully and optimistically.
  • Avoided gridlock by seeking a solution to the conflict.

Relationships will thrive, or fail, based on your communications skills. It’s never too late to learn more effective ways to get closer to your life partner.

When Hate Takes Hold

There are many places in the world, including pockets in our own country, where hate is thriving. In such milieus, people hate others who are different from themselves. They view these “others” as substandard or wicked. Hence, they want them uprooted, removed, even expunged from this earth.

hate-not-valueWhen such a mind-set exists, hate-provoking propaganda is welcome. As the propaganda spreads, a “group think” takes hold that knows no bounds, for everyone you associate with thinks the way you do.

To intensify the problem, when leaders promote hate, hate becomes virtuous. When differences are demeaned, demeaning becomes honorable. When anger is stoked, stoking up violence becomes rewarded. Like an unchecked cancer, hate eats away at all that is good.

  • Hate feeds on fear
  • Hate breeds mistrust
  • Hate nurtures contempt
  • Hate destroys objectivity
  • Hate celebrates revenge
  • Hate wipes out reason

The language people use can make hate acceptable, even respectable. Then, it’s an easy jump to justifying hate-based actions as “unavoidable”, “necessary” and “justified.” People believe that they must fight fire with fire. They must get rid of them. They must take their country back.

People begin to bond together based upon their mutual hatred of the “other.” Then scapegoating escalates. Demeaning the “other” becomes acceptable. Debasing the “other” becomes respectable. Degrading the “other” becomes honorable. Hatred becomes a unifying force, serving to unite “us,” elevate “our” way of living; “our” way of believing, “our” way of worshiping.

frazzled-hairWe all need to be on guard against the growth of hate in our society — and even in ourselves. For hatred is not necessarily experienced as hatred. It may be experienced as self- righteous indignation, justified anger or appropriate retaliation.

So, if hatred beckons, we must prevent it from hijacking our hearts, even when we are grieving for victims of violence. If hatred beckons, we must prevent it from clouding our minds, especially when we are searching for viable solutions to complex problems.

Political leaders often hype up their audiences with simple solutions and snappy slogans. But leaders must monitor what they say. For, when their followers are revved up, they become passionate. And that passion may turn to violent action.

Unfortunately, hate rhetoric has been Donald Trump’s trademark. Here are just 3 of his recent statements:

“If Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving; they’re going, they’re gone.”

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families.”

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the 2nd Amendment. If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although….maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Who knows if a lone-wolf or an angry psyche will take Trump’s words as permission to go on a rampage? And who then will be responsible for what happens?

mlkNow, contrast Trump’s message with Martin Luther King’s message of non-violence. King had plenty of reason to hate, to promote revenge, to hype violence. But he didn’t. Instead, he taught concepts consistent with most religious teachings of a universal humanity. And as he searched for solutions to complex problems, he chose metaphors of light and love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

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